Friday, June 4, 2010

Can you name a Supreme Court Judge?

Well, isn't this just peachy? Apparently, nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot name any members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Any members. Not a one. That's mind boggling to me.

From the survey:
According to a new national survey, only 35 percent of Americans can name even one member of the nation's highest court.

Clarence Thomas is the most well known justice but could be named by only 19 percent of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts was named by 16 percent of people. Sonia Sotomayor, the newest justice, could be named by only 15 percent of Americans following a highly visible nomination and confirmation process last year.

According to the survey, the percentages of Americans who can name any U.S. Supreme Court justices are:

Clarence Thomas – 19%
John Roberts – 16%
Sonia Sotomayor – 15%
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
Antonin Scalia – 10%
Samuel Alito – 8%
John Paul Stevens – 8%
Anthony Kennedy – 6%
Stephen Breyer – 3%

Only 1 percent of Americans could correctly name all nine current members of the Supreme Court.

In addition, many Americans think that retired justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter are still active members of the Supreme Court. O'Connor and Souter retired from the Court in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
I have to say I am pretty impressed that even one percent can name all nine justices though. I could only name five. With all the hoopla regarding Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation I'm surprised more people couldn't remember her.

US Supreme Court, originally uploaded by Mark Fischer.

Luckily, it's not as bad as it seems:
"This result is not especially surprising nor, by itself, should it be alarming," said Michael C. Dorf, a former Supreme Court clerk who currently teaches constitutional law at Cornell University Law School and authors a legal column for FindLaw. "Even though Supreme Court rulings can have a major impact on contentious issues such as the death penalty, abortion rights, discrimination and environmental protection, the Court issues its rulings as a collective body. After their 15 minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee are up, Supreme Court justices rarely appear on television. What is a source for concern are polls consistently showing that many Americans are unfamiliar with basic features of our constitutional system."
Is anyone surprised by these findings though? I know I'm not.


  1. What truly distresses me is that SO MANY PEOPLE cannot name, let alone understand, the three branches of our government. I once laughed to a friend (who was teaching poly-sci at a junior college at the time) that I don't know much about how our government actually works, but at least I know that the Judicial branch is the Supreme Court, the Legislative Branch is the Senate and House, and the Executive Branch is the President/V.P.

    She just raised her eyebrows and said, "You know a LOT more than many, many people.

  2. You're right. I had a friend (who had recently graduated from high school no lessS) who couldn't tell me what two bodies made up congress. It's crazy.

  3. That's kind of a problem in my school, partly because of the new governer (Jersey, you know). He cut back A LOT of the school funds, and most of it was from the history and art programs. So my teacher had to shave off MOST of the american goverment unit to save computer lab time. So, now just about every freshman in my town knows zero about everything relating to the three branches of goverment. It kind of sucks.

  4. WTF???
    I get it that folks can't name them all. Shit, I can't either.
    But none?
    Nor the three branches of government?

    We. Are. Fucking. Doomed!

  5. Oh and I love that all the presidential hopefuls at the Republican debates proudly claim how much they reject evolution and embrace creationism. Last I checked that wasn't something to be proud of.


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